Turnovers proved to be the downfall for the Hawks as they fell to the French Camp Academy Panthers 28-8 in the 1A North Half Championship game. The Panthers, at 11-2, will play Stringer in the 1A State Title game at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson Saturday at 11 a.m. Shaw finished its year at 10-3.
The Hawks committed six turnovers — all interceptions — and ended up throwing the ball a season-high 39 times. The Hawks also had some dropped passes during the evening, while the interceptions enabled French Camp to score the first 21 points of the contest.
“We got in the hole early, and you can’t afford to do that against a good football team,” Shaw head football coach Kendrick Smith said. “We’ve got to make plays. Maybe it was my fault. Maybe I threw it too much tonight. I can always second guess myself, but French Camp won the game.”
The first quarter was by far Shaw’s worst quarter of the game. With the Hawks deep in Panthers’ territory, French Camp’s Hagan Box intercepted a pass and ran it down the field near the Panthers’ sideline for a 75-yard return for a touchdown with 6:08 left in the first quarter. The point-after kick from Sam Gould was good, and the Panthers led 7-0.
French Camp’s defense stepped up again on Shaw’s next possession as senior Ben Hosket intercepted another pass that bounced off the hands of a Shaw High receiver, putting French Camp on Shaw’s 29-yard line. The Panthers took advantage of the field position as quarterback Jesse Hosket completed a 27-yard touchdown pass to Lovondra Carter with 5:11 left in the game. Gould kicked the extra point to increase French Camp’s lead to 14-0.
French Camp added one more touchdown before the end of the quarter as Carter recorded French Camp’s third interception of the night and ran it back 20 yards for a touchdown with 3:48 still left on the first quarter clock. The kick from Gould was good, and the Panthers inflated their lead to 21-0, which up would being the score going into the second quarter.
“I think our guys were a little tight, our receivers played a little tight,” Smith said. “That’s not normally how our kids perform. I’m just a little disappointed in our first quarter play. It just wasn’t our night tonight.”
Shaw’s defense stepped up and did a job at keeping French Camp at bay. Shaw’s Xavius Loggins had a key fumble recovery in the second quarter, which helped keep the Panthers off the board in the quarter. The Hawks did a better job at protecting the football on offense, but the score still remained 21-0 going into the lockerroom at halftime.
At the start of the third quarter, French Camp went to receive the kickoff from Shaw. Coach Smith decided to call an onside kick, and the move worked as the Hawks recovered the football. Shaw’s offense couldn’t put the points on the board as the French Camp defense forced a turnover-on-downs.
As the third quarter progressed, the Hawks were able to put together a solid drive. Pruitt threw a pass to Octavius Stimmage who caught the ball and was able to put the Hawks deep in French Camp territory on a 34-yard reception.
Later in the drive with the Hawks at the Panthers’ 18-yard line, Pruitt was able to complete a pass to Keveon Shepherd. Shepherd, who had a hard time catching the ball earlier in the night, came up with the ball on the play and was able to carry a couple of defenders on his back as he got down to the 3-yard line for the first down. On the next play, Christopher Harthone marched into the end zone for the touchdown with 3:28 left on the third quarter clock. Harthone also charged in for the 2-point conversion to cut French Camp’s lead down to 21-8.
The momentum wouldn’t last as Ben Hoskett picked off another pass from Pruitt to give the Panthers the football at the Shaw 46-yard line. The Panthers marched the ball down the field and were able to go on a good drive. With 6:23 left in the game, French Camp ended the drove with another score as Box ran into the end zone from two yards out. The kick from Gould again was good, and the Panthers went up 28-8.
The Hawks couldn’t get any closer as Jaylon Clemons intercepted a pass to help keep the Hawks at bay.
Shaw’s offense had some good runs from Harthone toward the end of the game, but it was too little, too late.
For French Camp, Jesse Hosket completed 5-of-14 passes for 79 yards and a touchdown with Carter catching all five completions. Hosket also rushed for 55 yards on 13 carries, followed by Clemons with 52 yards on 14 carries. Jesse and Ben also recorded nine tackles each to lead the defense.
For Shaw, Pruitt had a rough night as he threw all six interceptions. He finished the game 23-of-39 passing for 197 yards. Shepherd led all receivers with six catches for 82 yards, followed by Harthone with five catches for 47 yards. Harthone had a decent night running the ball as he rushed for 79 of Shaw’s 100 yards on the ground in the contest. Harthone scored a touchdown and a 2-point conversion on nine carries.
On defense, Loggins, Harthone and Lerandel Allen anchored the Hawks. Justin King also had a key sack in the second half to aid Shaw on defense.
Smith said, despite the outcome of this game, Shaw still have a good future ahead.
“We’re supposed to be playing for the north half championship and state championship with as much talent as there is in Shaw,” Smith added. “I expect for us to get in this weight room, get a good work out over the summer and be right back in this position again.”